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Milligan v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 10, 2015

APRIL MILLIGAN, Defendant Below-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below-Appellee

Submitted May 6, 2015

Case Closed July 8, 2015.

Page 1233

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for Sussex County. No. 1310009696.

Michael R. Abram, Esquire, Law Office of Michael R. Abram, Georgetown, Delaware, for Appellant.

Kathryn J. Garrison, Esquire, Department of Justice, Georgetown, Delaware, for Appellee.

Before HOLLAND, VALIHURA, and VAUGHN, Justices.

OPINION

Page 1234

VAUGHN, Justice:

Defendant-Below/Appellant April Milligan appeals her convictions of Driving Under the Influence and Improper Lane Change. Milligan raises two claims on appeal. First, she claims that the Superior Court erred by admitting documentation relating to the chain of custody in the absence of live testimony, which she contends violated her right to confront her accusers as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to United States Constitution[1] and Section 7 of the Delaware Constitution.[2] Specifically, she argues that in order for a blood test to be admitted, all of those who took possession of the blood sample, regardless of whether it was packaged at the time, must testify at trial. Second, Milligan claims that the Superior Court abused its discretion by allowing the State to introduce the results of her blood draw without first establishing a proper foundation. We find no merit to these claims and affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 12, 2013, a motorist called 911 after noticing a split telephone pole, plastic debris on the side of the road, and a damaged car in the middle of a nearby field. Paramedics and Trooper Jordan Rollins responded to the call. After being extricated from the car, Milligan was transported to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. Trooper Rollins secured a search warrant for a blood draw and watched as a phlebotomist, Lewis Purcell, drew Milligan's blood.

Once the blood draw was complete, Trooper Rollins transported the blood kit to Troop 5, where he sealed it and put it in an evidence refrigerator. The kit was transported to the Delaware State Police Crime Lab on September 18, 2013, where it was received by Deborah Louie. At the lab, the blood kit was retrieved by Juliann Willey, the crime lab director, so that she could perform an analysis of the blood. Willey signed the Chemical Test Report located inside the blood kit, but did not sign the Chain of Possession Log located on the outside of the kit. Willey did, however, testify that the blood kit was sealed when she took possession of it. Milligan's blood test revealed a blood alcohol content (" BAC" ) of 0.15 percent.

Prior to testing the blood sample, control samples were prepared and run through the chromatograph to ensure the machine was working properly.[3] Willey testified that these samples may be prepared by any chemist or lab technician in

Page 1235

the laboratory, and that she could not remember whether she prepared the control samples used in Milligan's test.[4] She did, however, testify that she analyzed the results to ensure that they were reliable.

In November 2013, Milligan was charged by indictment with a third offense of Driving Under the Influence, Failure to Have Insurance Card in Possession, and Improper Lane Change. At trial, the State introduced the blood analysis report prepared by Willey. The State also introduced two other documents in order to prove the blood sample's chain of custody: (1) the Chain of Possession Log, which was located on the outside of the blood kit, and (2) the Chemical Test Report,[5] which was located inside the blood kit (collectively, the " Documents" ). Trooper Rollins, Willey, and the phlebotomist that drew Milligan's blood also testified regarding the blood sample's chain of custody. At the end of the one-day jury trial, Milligan was found guilty of Driving Under the Influence and Improper Lane Change. This appeal followed.

II. DISCUSSION

We review a trial court's ruling admitting or excluding evidence for abuse of discretion.[6] " If we conclude that there was an abuse of discretion, we must then determine whether there was significant prejudice to deny the accused of his or her right to a fair trial." [7] Alleged constitutional violations ...


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